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Gordita Chronicles Tells a Dominican Immigration Story


I keep in mind when there was such a profound lack of Latinx representation in Hollywood that even seeing our beloved Jennifer Lopez taking part in a Latina maid in “Maid in Manhattan” felt like progress — in comparison with movies during which we had been portrayed as sexpots, gang members, or drug lords. For years, Hollywood has perpetuated dangerous stereotypes of Latinx communities, and this failure to humanize Latinxs in mainstream media, movie, and tv straight impacts the way in which we’re handled by society. While latest years have seen extra constructive portrayals in Hollywood, it has been sluggish.

As a end result, we as a group have found ourselves at times overly critical of Latinx films or series; we’re typically fast to dismiss or cancel sure tales as a result of they did not get every thing proper. And whereas the criticism is commonly legitimate — like how Lin-Manuel Miranda’s movie adaptation of “In The Heights” failed to fully depict the Afro-Dominican community of Washington Heights — we will not deny that now we have had some wins (e.g., Disney’s “Encanto”). And with extra Latinx tales slowly however absolutely hitting the mainstream, what higher time than now to embrace the assorted Latinx tales now we have?

HBO Max’s “Gordita Chronicles” is on no account the standard Dominican-American story we’re used to seeing in movie and tv — the truth is, it is the primary of its sort. Set in 1985, the comedic household sitcom follows a middle-class Dominican household that migrates from their dwelling in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to Miami — and the challenges they face in making an attempt to assimilate to life within the US whereas holding onto their tradition, their values, and who they’re. It’s a story that many can relate, whether or not or not they’re Dominican-American and even Latinx. And it is a story value giving a likelihood.

Claudia Forestieri, the present’s author and creator, was impressed by her personal Dominican household and migration story. The collection follows Carlotta, or “Cucu” (performed by Olivia Goncalves), a 12-year-old Dominican lady based mostly on Forestieri herself. She’s a chubby, brown-skinned, curly-haired Dominicana looking for her place in US tradition and society. Foresti was motivated to share her story in 2016 in response to Donald Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric concentrating on Latinx immigrants and communities.

“He mentioned a lot of actually horrible issues about immigrants. He mentioned Mexican immigrants, however I feel all individuals of colour knew what he was actually saying,” Forestieri tells POPSUGAR. “My first profession was working for Telemundo as a reporter and later as a producer. I’ve labored all around the nation. And that was not my expertise. The approach he was making it out to be was very alarmist. It was very distorted. It was not my expertise in any respect, and I needed to jot down one thing completely different — the immigrant expertise I knew not solely from my expertise, however from masking the immigrant group for a dozen years in Chicago, within the Bay Area, in LA, and in Miami.”

Forestieri explains she was additionally impressed by the assorted migration tales that exist inside her circle of relatives. She comes from three generations of immigrants. Her paternal grandfather immigrated from Italy to the Dominican Republic. Her dad was half Dominican and half Italian, and her mom is a brown-skinned Dominican girl. They acquired married and migrated to Puerto Rico, finally shifting along with her and her sister to Miami when she was seven.

12/01/21 Carolina, PR--Gordita Chronicles Season 1, episode 109 directed by Randall Winston. (Photo: Laura Magruder)

“People had been at all times very confused by me, as a result of they had been like, ‘Wait a second. You say you are Dominican. But then your Spanish — it does not actually sound Dominican. Sometimes you sound a little Cuban. And then you will have an Italian final identify.’ I do not know, individuals had been confused by me,” Forestieri says. “And then like, ‘OK, you are obsessive about dropping pounds and being acomplejá about being gordita. But you continue to like to eat. Like, what’s up?’ I used to be like, OK, I’m going to have to elucidate to individuals, ‘Well, I grew up in Miami. Yes, I’m Dominican. But I’m not your typical Dominican. Not that there is actually such a factor, as a result of I feel each Dominican expertise is completely different. So simply because the previous saying goes, ‘write what you already know,’ so I wrote a model [of my life] for a TV present.”

In “Gordita Chronicles,” Cucu; her older sister, Emilia (performed by Savannah Nicole Ruiz); her father, Victor Castelli (performed by Juan Javier Cardenas); and her mom, Adela Castelli (performed by Diana Maria Riva) navigating their place in US life. Cucu goes from being advised she’s “gordita” out of cariño in DR to being referred to as “fatso” by her college friends in Miami; Emilia struggles to maintain up with the “cool ladies” in class; their mother and father are introduced with their very own challenges.

The collection incorporates quite a few references to Dominican tradition, together with scenes with merengue music — in some instances, Juan Luis Guerra songs that Foresti listened to rising up. There are Dominican sayings, Dominican slang, and Dominicanisms used all through; meals comparable to sopa de ayuma, mangú, and dulce de coco are referenced. While the household speaks largely English so that every one viewers can tune in, Foresti grew up talking largely Spanish at dwelling.

“In my home, it was like a little Santo Domingo inside. My dad, although he was half Italian and light-skinned, you by no means met a prouder Dominican. It nearly felt like he was at all times speaking about Dominican tradition and Dominican contributions,” Forestieri says. “Because being in Miami, it was like being a minority inside a minority. In the 80s, the dominant American tradition was altering, since you had the Cubans — so it was American and Cuban tradition taking on, after which throughout the Cuban tradition is just like the subset of Dominicans. There had been Dominicans rising up, however it wasn’t like New York.”

“I feel it is necessary, as a result of not all immigrant experiences are the identical, and never everyone that comes from a sure nation shares the identical background and the identical experiences.”

While Forestieri’s experiences are nothing like these of, say, a Dominican-American born and raised in Washington Heights, she believes there may be room for various Latinx and Dominican tales. “I feel it is necessary, as a result of not all immigrant experiences are the identical, and never everyone that comes from a sure nation shares the identical background and the identical experiences,” she says. “I nonetheless assume there’s a lot of room for comedies concerning the New York Dominican expertise. There are [also] a lot of Dominicans in Boston. There are a lot of locations the place there are huge Dominican communities . . . I’m anxious for individuals to see it — Dominicans in New York, particularly — as a result of a part of me is like, ‘Are they going to have the ability to connect with it?’ The New York Dominican expertise is completely different from the Miami Dominican expertise. “

Forestieri is pleased with how she was in a position to share her story via “Gordita Chronicles.” She’s additionally stunned that she was given the inexperienced gentle to do a present so particular to her expertise and life. The pilot episode opens with Jack Carr’s quote “Immigration is the sincerest type of flattery.” The quote was meant to encapsulate the central message of the present: most immigrants come to the US with the perfect intentions — they search alternatives and a higher life. The hateful feedback Trump has made over time about immigrants, together with calling Latin American immigrants criminals, spurred Foresti to seize what actually drives individuals emigrate to this nation — and the hope, wrestle, and belonging that comes with that.

The casting was very intentional: Forestieri appeared for actors who reminded her of her circle of relatives members and who might actually embody the characters. “I’m very proud and really proud of the actors that acquired to be on this present. I’m very blissful we had been capable of finding Diana Maria, who’s such a proficient comic actress and of Dominican descent,” Forestieri says. “I do know there are specific expectations that folks may need, however I actually hope they offer this forged and this present a likelihood. The individuals in my household are all completely different colours. My mother in actual life is a bit darker-skinned than Diana. Olivia, who performs Cucu, is darker-skinned than I’m. So there are all these little bits of variations, however in the long run, it’s extremely reflective of my household. It’s not like I used to be making an attempt to re-create my household, however these actors that we discovered seize the essence of the characters that we wrote and understood the background of those characters.”

“I feel understanding extra the place immigrants come from is one thing that may profit individuals — and never simply individuals of Latin descent, but additionally second-, third-, fifth-or tenth-generation Americans.”

Forestieri finally needs individuals to see that, regardless of the wrestle, there may be additionally a enjoyable and delightful facet to the immigrant expertise. “I feel understanding extra the place immigrants come from is one thing that may profit individuals — and never simply individuals of Latin descent, but additionally second-, third-, fifth-, or tenth-generation Americans,” she says. “I hope individuals will give it a likelihood and be capable of see extra of like a human facet, a lighter facet to the immigration expertise.”





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